Friday, March 28, 2014

The road north to Ashland

Lamb chops at New Sammy's
Eastside Road, March 28, 2014—
OR, A TALE of Meat and Cheese.

We returned yesterday from a short week north to Ashland, there to see three plays, as noted elsewhere, stopping off near Redding for a short hike to a previously unvisited waterfall.

No one leaves the San Francisco Bay Area to drive to Redding, a distance of two hundred miles, for a Gourmet experience. Since we had to go by way of Berkeley, I readied myself with a rye raisin "rabbit" roll from Acme Bread, and a good cappuccino to go, along with a jambon beurré for lunch later on, from Bartlevelle next door. There would be no good coffee again, I thought, until we reached Ashland.

• Bartavelle Cafe, 1603 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley; (510) 524-2473

Lunch on a car trip is often a hard-boiled egg, some almonds, some dried apricots, perhaps some chocolate, and the hike was decently fueled. Afterward, though, we were Hungry. We'd heard of a new place, new to us at any rate, but the Savory Spoon turned out to be closed for the night when we arrived there. Where to eat, then? No one had any ideas.

We wound up at a joint near our motel, where the menu offered nothing but shrimped-up standards. ("Shrimped-up" is a saying in our extended family; it means that a standard item in the repertory has been modified for the worse by the addition of one or more completely extraneous ingredients, utterly subverting the original concept.)

The only thing that might conceivably work was the hamburger — a "juicy, charbroiled burger," the menu promised, "dusted with Cajun spice, topped with Garlic-Asiago cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, fries and Cajun mayo."

Now I am always suspicious of any combination of meat and cheese, and I loathe cheeseburgers. I asked about the Asiago. Well, do you know Asiago, the waitress asked. Yes, I know Asiago. Well, it's Asiago, she said. Reasoning that I could always remove it, and being by now very hungry, I ordered it. I shouldn't have. Even after scraping the cheese away, its aroma lingered.

The next morning brought one ray of hope for Redding: there is finally a good cappuccino, in a small, awkward shopping plaza at the north end of Hilltop Drive, where they serve coffee from Temple, the Sacramento roastery, and make it fairly carefully in a machine that seems to be well tended.

Madayne Eatery & Espresso,
930 Hilltop Dr., Redding, California; (530) 224-1111
That hamburger in ReddingFrisée aux lardons……and charcuterie at Loft, Ashland
NEXT DAY, TUESDAY, after our morning cappuccino and croissant, we struck out for Ashland. We lunched in our motel room, on apples and tangerines, and saw a hilarious play, and then went to a familiar bistro for dinner. Since we had another play to see in the evening I ate light: Frisée aux lardons; then a charcuterie plate: country paté terrine, chicken-liver mousse, and cured pork, with pickles, capers, mustard, and toasted baguette.

Viognier/Marsanne, W.M. Augustus (Southwest Oregon), 2010 (terrible: oxidized, sour, and funky: I actually sent it back); Pinot blanc, Marc Kreydenweiss (Alsace), 2010 (good; unexceptional)
• Loft Brasserie & Bar,
18 Calle Guanajuato, Ashland, Oregon; (541) 482-1116
THEN, WEDNESDAY, after a third play, we had the dinner we'd been looking forward to, at one of our favorite restaurants. I'm not sure I've eaten here in this season before, very early Spring, beyond the classic braises the place is so expert with, not yet quite ready for summertime fare. I began with salad: butter lettuce with "Caesar"dressing, pickled peppers, olives, garlic croutons.

Following that, what better than grilled lamb chops, with braised kale, pink potatoes, white beans, cheese gnocchi, and tapenade vinaigrette. Wait! What? Cheese gnocchi with the meat? I had been paying attention. In the end I suppose I have to admit it wasn't the end of the world; some people may very well like the combination. To me, it doesn't quite work. There are exceptions to my rule. I like chicken Val d'Aosta, the supreme grilled, with prosciutto and a thin slice of Fontina. A veal scalloppini can profit from similar treatment. And of course a grilled ham and cheese is one of the Hundred Plates. But in general I find the deep flavor of lamb or beef, especially grilled, does not comfortably accompany the scent of cooked cheese

Oh well: for dessert, my favorite Linzer torte, tonight with slivovitz ice cream on the side. Heaven!
A glass of Champagne; Marcillac, Domaine du Cros Philippe Teulier (Languedoc) (deep and rich yet light)
• New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, 2210 S. Pacific Highway, Talent, Oegon; (541) 535-2779YESTERDAY WE DROVE HOME after first stopping for our morning cappuccinos at our favorite Ashland coffee stop, Case; and then pastries at our favorite Ashland pastry stop, Mix. We bought one of Mix's delicious jambons beurrés, too, even though we were planning on a lunch stop in Redding, to check out that Savory Spoon.

We had begun the trip with a jambon beurré from Berkeley's Bartavelle, and I had liked it considerably even though its bread wasn't quite right. This sandwich, which I always associate with Paris, needs a baguette, not a soft-crust bread. Mix puts the thin ham — boiled ham, of course, not prosciutto — on a baguette or, in fact, a flûte, lightly spread with thyme-flavored butter. Cornichon on the side. Comme il faut.• Case Coffee Roasters, 1255 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland, Oregon
• Mix Sweet Shop, 57 N Main St, Ashland, OR 97520
(541) 488-9885
grilled cheese.jpgWe did stop at the Spoon for lunch, and here I had a simple grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough bread, with a slice of tomato, and a fine dill pickle on the side, and bland but acceptable cole slaw with it, and a glass of beer. It's an interesting place: a non-profit restaurant, it puts its profits into feeding the community on Mondays at whatever price the diner can afford to pay!

And so ended my days caught between meat and cheese, and now let us return to normal, whatever that may be.

The Savory Spoon, 1647 Hartnell Ave, Redding, California; (530) 222-7200

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